Exploring the images we buy into versus the love that we are . . .
What would it be like to live in a world without billboards, glossy magazines or pop up ads, without fashion photography or VIP lines, without gossip or comparison to other women? What would it feel like to grow up in a world where we were encouraged to simply be ourselves – no imagery to aspire to, no expectations to live up to, no roles to play?
It would feel amazing of course. Like being the wild eagle soaring instead of the caged parrot mimicking – we would have a clearer path to fly, what’s more, we’d feel a whole lot better for it. But that is not how the world is today. It is dominated by pictures of what we should look like, talk like, act like – all telling us we’re not measuring up to something . . . that we could do better somehow if we just tried a little harder.
The great news is, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there is great opportunity in acknowledging what is going on for women and how we are portrayed. By talking about what it is we feel about all these pictures and roles we play up to, we start to unfurl their grasp on our subconscious and re-ignite the spark of our true essence; a true way of being which is far more powerful than any image cast upon us.
Esoteric Women’s Health Sydney recently hosted an event to do just this – question what it is exactly that we are measuring ourselves up to with society’s standards and how we can live in a way that is more honouring of who we truly are. The first of three in the Well-being for Women series 2017, What is it to be a Woman in the World Today? asked us to go there – to really look at what ideals and images we are trying to meet and how these are crippling our most gorgeous true selves, our essence.
Dr Maxine Szramka presented to us an array of photographs collected from the media – glossy advertisements, billboards, fashion ‘art’ – that portrayed women in a way that is not even close to what all the women in the room admittedly felt they are. Though the images were normal in terms of what we are bombarded with everyday (many printed in the world’s most highly regarded fashion magazines) they were quite shocking when you spent a moment contemplating them.
Maxine presented the princess image, the perfect wife image, the happy mother image, the virgin butterfly, the hard-edged career woman . . . and – from ads by top designer labels – the gang raped woman, the sex slave woman, the entertainer woman. The list goes on but needless to say it was exposing to see just how many roles society asks us to live up to.
But what was wonderful to feel about Maxine’s presentation was that it ignited a room full of women to express how these images had affected their lives. The suppressing expectations, the conflicting comparisons, the stringent ideals, the self-inflicted harshness, the exploitative behaviours – the all round degrading attitudes we have used against ourselves and other women to stop us from being the magnificent women we truly are – it all flowed out.
What Maxine presented was that this is something we all know is going on yet have been so entrenched in the way society runs that we haven’t always had the courage or honesty to really go there and explore this topic. The question raised was – why not?
“When we are small we learn to go outside of ourselves – we learn to role model ourselves on people until we go ‘no, not that, no no, not that’.” Maxine Szramka
What happens when we don’t say no and follow the images? “When we look around and see that we don’t match the images, we turn it in on ourselves and we start to think there is something wrong with us”, as Maxine pointed out. We start to measure ourselves up against these images and get into this perpetual cycle of self-judgement, self-critique and self-loathing. Sometimes this is subtle, sometimes it’s full blown and results in self-harming behaviours – ultimately however it results in a lack of self worth i.e. the complete opposite of who we are and the celebration we ought to be having about ourselves. All this fuelled by the images we are trying to meet and have said yes to. The disturbing thing is these images are often fed to us subliminally and in socially acceptable contexts. We often have little awareness of how they are affecting us until we have a conversation about it at a
Well-being for Women event J
“What I love about women is that we have an enormous amount of wisdom . . . one of the beautiful things that happens when we come together that is very precious, is that we get to share that wisdom.” Maxine Szramka
The exploration of our own projected images of what it is to be a woman today was exposing – the fact that every woman in the room raised her hand to the question ‘who feels there is or has been something wrong with them?’ is insight into just how important this topic is to explore if women are to feel their true worth and use their true voice.
“If you didn’t have images coming at you then you would grow up thinking I’m it – I’m amazing.” Maxine Szramka
What if we didn’t model ourselves on these images and we lived by what’s inside us?
All of the images Dr Maxine shared with us have one thing in common – they don’t reflect the true beauty of what it means to be a woman. Women are warm, we are real, we are profoundly wise, we are nurturing, we have a natural sense of relationship and community, we are playful and we are immensely powerful when we honour how sacred we are, i.e. ditch the images and connect to the absolute divine essence we hold within.
Enter Beverly Carter. Bev shared how she had transformed her life from being someone who seemingly was the picture of perfect health / fitness guru and living the celebrity life but felt lost and empty inside: “on the outside I looked like I was doing pretty good but on the inside I was feeling pretty crap”. Bev is now a woman who is absolutely gorgeous (she literally glows), joy-full (she literally shines) and deeply honouring of her body. She is living proof that it’s possible to transform your life from the inside out rather than the outside in.
How did she do it?
“What I have learnt is that my body is a way to connect to my beauty. Over the years I have been remembering my essence.” Beverly Carter
With Bev we explored what our essence is, how the images we buy into affect our essence and how we can drop the images to appreciate ourselves more deeply. Simply, we worked on rediscovering our self worth.
So what is essence? The group explored it as:
- That inner knowingness – moments where you feel that joy of who you truly are.
- The harmony, that loveliness, that feeling that connects us all.
- The way we talk, and dress – some uniqueness unhindered by the images but also something else.
- A feeling of inner calmness of wherever you are.
- The ultimate freedom – you can be all of who you are and you don’t really care what others think of you.
- It makes you feel more connected with other people around you – you feel closer to others.
- A true confidence from within. Nothing to do with what others think about me – it is purely mine – with that there is no hardness or protection in my body so I can feel that quality and connection with others.
- It allows you to find the beauty in another, no comparison.
- It is glorious.
Really, what’s the issue? Why are we not connecting to our essence all of the time if it’s so wonderful and all that?
‘I remember thinking: “I’m craving to get there [my essence] but I’m fighting the surrender to get there . . . to find your way there - after you’ve layered so much on - that’s the difficulty . . . there’s a process to go through to get there . . . you’ve got to let go of the control. It’s difficult – to give yourself permission to let it happen.” Gabrielle Caplice.
Bev gave us some very practical tips on how to reconnect with our essence. Some of these were:
- Take a moment to connect and feel your breath.
- What pictures are we still holding on to? Plan to let go of the pictures – unpack the stuff that is holding you into the pictures.
- Know that it’s not a learning – it’s a remembering because you are already all knowing – your essence within is a fact, not something you need to create or better in some way.
- Do things in a rhythm, with a quality, bring you to it – otherwise tasks will just be something to tick off on a to-do list and you’ll miss out on the joy and love felt when you are connected to your essence.
- Trust your breath, trust your body – and little by little the remembering of your essence will unfold.
- Ask yourself: Am I dressing for me or to dull myself down or to fit a picture? Am I making any choice that is not coming from a love and or care for myself?
- Appreciate you. Drop the self doubt and critic and give yourself the gift of appreciating you – the reflection that alone can offer another woman is an opportunity for them to feel your essence and therefore provide a marker for them to connect more deeply to their essence.
What is it to be a Woman in the World Today? was exposing yet exceptionally loving and healing at the same time – we very much felt held in our self-exposures. We were given the opportunity to unpack our images, but also walked away with some very simple tools to apply in our daily lives to make more loving choices to support us to come back to a ‘true normal’, not the normal we buy into. The wealth of insight and inspiration on offer was a wonderful foundation for the next topic – Women in Relationships. No doubt this will be another fun and eye-opening topic to play with!
By Nicki Ferguson
Next up for Well-being for Women Sydney . . .
Women in Relationships
When: Sunday 13th August, 10.30am – 1.00pm
Where: Woollahra Library (Event Space B), Level 1, 451 New South Head Road, Double Bay
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org